NEWS RELEASE   10/2/2012

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NRA-Backed Legislation Would Gut System that Blocks Felons, Domestic Abusers and Other Dangerous People from Buying Firearms

87 Percent of U.S. Gun Owners Support Background Checks

A coalition of mayors, police chiefs and other Michiganders today applauded Governor Rick Snyder for rejecting a bill that would have sharply undercut a program that bars criminals, the mentally ill and other dangerous people from buying handguns.

The governor announced yesterday that he would not sign HB 5225, which would have repealed the Michigan “purchase permit” law that now requires potential gun buyers to pass a background check and a basic firearm safety test before buying a handgun.

The bill would have effectively exempted 48% of Michigan’s annual handgun sales – those conducted by unlicensed “private” sellers at gun shows or over the Internet – from a background check. If the measure had passed, only federally licensed firearms dealers would still be required to conduct checks.

The National Rifle Association lobbied aggressively to repeal the permitting system and the accompanying background check and training requirements.

"I want to thank Governor Snyder for taking a stand to keep guns out of criminal hands," said Flint Mayor Dayne Walling. “HB 5225 would endanger police officers and make it more difficult to keep our communities safe."

Law enforcement leaders say that in 2011, the system blocked just under 2,600 prohibited gun buyers from obtaining permits. Several police chiefs warned legislators that the bill would make unregulated gun sellers a magnet for dangerous people who want to avoid a background check.

"This bill would make it easier for criminals to obtain handguns for use in violent crimes, and they don't need any help with that," said Flint Police Chief Alvern Lock. "Our officers put their lives on the line daily to protect Flint. We need the state legislature to show support for law enforcement efforts. This bill would undermine our efforts to reduce gun crime by taking away a valuable tool, the purchase permit system. I want to thank the Governor for his decision to stand with law enforcement."

The bill would also have eliminated the state’s database of purchase permit holders, denying police a vital source of investigative leads, law enforcement officials said.

"Unfortunately, it took too many preventable murders and prodding by law enforcement for a law that prohibits persons against whom a personal protection order is issued from obtaining a firearm,” said Detroit Police Chief Ralph L. Godbee, Jr. “Today, victims and society are protected because those individuals cannot purchase a firearm either from a gun dealer or from a private individual because he/she needs a purchase permit. And when a registered stolen firearm is recovered, the purchase record allows the police to return it to its legal owner. Investigators charged with solving homicides and other violent crimes use gun sales records as critical links in the chain of evidence that contributes to the apprehension of wanted suspects." Chief Godbee’s full statement is available here.

Background checks enjoy overwhelming support among law enforcement officials and the public, including gun owners. A 2012 survey by Republican pollster Frank Luntz found that 74 percent of National Rifle Association members, and 87 percent of gun owners, believe a criminal background check should be required of all gun buyers.

Eight Michigan mayors expressed their strong opposition to HB 5225 in a letter to Governor Snyder and state legislative leaders earlier this week. The full letter is available here. They are members of the bipartisan Mayors Against Illegal Guns coalition, a partnership of more than 725 mayors who support the rights of gun owners and advocate common-sense gun laws to keep firearms out of dangerous hands.

“The nation’s gun background check system has stopped more than one million illegal gun transactions. Michigan is one of several states to utilize these background checks not just for licensed gun sales, but also private-party sales,” said Ypsilanti Mayor Paul Schreiber. “HB 5225 would render the background check system useless for private handgun sales in Michigan. It would open up a deadly loophole in our gun laws – one that convicted criminals and other dangerous individuals would fully exploit.”

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